140 jobs to go in Bewley’s revamp

by Gazette Reporter

A massive rent burden is being blamed for the loss of 140 jobs at Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street which is set to close for six months while renovations to reduce the size of the cafe get under way.
Bewley’s announced plans to simplify the current operation of its cafe on Grafton Street in order to secure its long term future in the area.
Significant loss-making and high rents are being blamed for the decision to facilitate changes to the cafe’s operation. Restructuring plans mean the loss of 140 jobs.
An emotional staff member told The Gazette that staff are “very sad” about the news. “I can’t even talk because I am so emotional about it. I’ve been here five years – I just can’t believe it. We’re all very sad.”
The cafe has huge operating costs including an annual rent of €1.5m and is currently making a loss of €1.2m a year. Bewley’s said it would still be making a loss even with a market reflective rent so the current position is “not sustainable”.
The cafe currently services across multiple floors, which the company say is too complex and expensive to operate and this “requires simplification”.
Refurbishment work will include an extensive refurbishment and restoration to be undertaken at a cost of over €1m.
The cafe is expected to close at the end of February and reopen after six months on the ground floor and basement, a reduction it hopes will help “reduce costs”.
Bewley’s is to enter into consultation with staff to look at ways in which some of the proposed redundancies might be avoided. Once reopened, it is envisaged that around 70 jobs will be made available at the scaled down cafe.
Bewley’s group chief executive John Cahill said the choice was either permanent closure or reinvestment. “We have chosen to underpin its future sustainability through a restructuring plan involving further investment and improvement.
“It is deeply regrettable to Bewley’s that the proposed period of closure is likely to result in redundancies for our dedicated cafe staff.
“We are planning this programme to sustain Bewley’s Cafe’s continuing presence on Grafton Street, and to create related jobs in the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, located on the second floor, will move during renovations.
Gina Quin, chief executive of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is sorry to hear of its temporary closure but there is a positive aspect to it. “It is a refurbishment so essentially they are reinvesting in the business and that is a positive sign.
“Our general feeling around retail at the moment… is that retailers are feeling cautiously optimistic around 2015 and there is a sense the market is coming back.
“There are lots of positive things happening but there are still issues around rental levels and that is going to take some time to work through the market,” she said.

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